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by Marco M. Pardi

The idea is to die young as late as possible. Ashley Montagu

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment. Simply check the archives if you are in search of something to occupy your last moments on Earth.

I do not recall any time in my life when I gave any thought to my longevity. It’s not that I didn’t think I would grow old, it just seemed irrelevant, one of those things you’ll think about when it arrives. Although I have offered the advice to others at times, I shudder when I hear that miserably trite saying, One day at a time. Time just seems so subjective, so fluid it is meaningless except in specific things, like defusing an activated explosive device. But then, we don’t do that often.

The more I read into quantum mechanics and theoretical physics the more I appreciated my native inclination toward mysticism and the sense of At Onceness. Einstein (you knew we had to work him in here somewhere) reportedly said, Time is Nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once. And, while teaching classes on World Mythology I enjoyed Joseph Campbell’s response when asked what was before Time. He said, “There was never a time when there was no time; there will never be a time when there is no time.” Think that one through, and get back to me later – if you figure out what later is. Reminds me of the English folk song about the train that leaves to Morrow. There is no Past; there is only the memory of it, in the Present. There is no Future; it is only what we, in the present, imagine it will be. When it arrives it will be the Present. But now I challenge you to seize the day, as another trite saying goes. “Where did the time go?”

Ever been told you aren’t the person you used to be? Many of us probably sized up the speaker to determine what time period they may be referencing, before we judged the remark. Somewhere in the past I took a different approach. I often said, “Why, yes. My sub-atomic particles, atoms, and molecules are effervescent and in constant motion and while your lips were moving a torrent of various thoughts raced through my mind. But how nice of you to notice.” Caught by some, missed by most.

In a variety of settings I’ve known many people at various moments in their advanced aging process. Some were close to me, most were not. Only once did I ask a very elderly woman, confined to a chair and then a bed for years, if she ever thought about just letting go. I did that because I had known her for years, and she was completely lucid throughout the process up to that time, unlike my mother, who spent years in profound and miserable delusions and terrors partly facilitated by Alzheimer’s.

The woman answered rather forcefully, asserting that she had no wish to go.

This kind of response generally gets taken as evidence of “The Will to Live”. I have very strong doubts regarding the efficacy of that concept. Of course, I will here state that the concept of “instinct” is grossly misapplied to humans, and largely to non-human animals as well. It seems that when people can’t explain the root or cause of a behavior they fall back on the convenience of “instinct”. And, “Will”. Do we live because of what we do, or do we live in spite of what we do? I’ve heard physicians say, “You should be dead.” Hey, don’t blame me. But I’m always amused when some rookie tv reporter finds a 107 year old woman living in the West Virginia mountains and asks her the secret to her long life: “Five packs of Camels and a quart of Jim Beam daily, sonny.” Thanks, I’ll pass. (pun intended)

As far as I’m concerned the claim of Free Will is just another example of mindless human hubris. It arises from a failure to understand the interweaving of Newtonian macro phenomena – “clockwork universe” – and quantum At Onceness. Just as “time” is an illusion, so too is cause/effect duality. In keeping with our hesitancy to understand, we compromise by invoking the convenience term Probability. But now that we are coming to realize the potentials within Artificial Intelligence we must also come to an honest and thoughtful examination of how Existence works, and whether, as we have long underestimated the intelligence of non-human life forms around us, we are underestimating the “intelligence” of Existence (or Allness, if you wish). In coming to grasp the implications of A.I. I am deeply inclined to view Allness as intelligent. Of course, there are many who will call this “God”. I do not. Further, I deeply doubt autonomous agency in any singular piece within this overall entity. At Onceness is manifestly unresponsive to our feeble cries of I wanna live! I wanna die!

Even a cursory understanding of the melding of astrophysics and quantum mechanics informs us that the Man made concepts Time, Space, Cause and Effect, and others cloud our perception, deflecting in the way water defracts the image of the pencil we insert partially into it. Some of us sense that reality is not what we perceive, yet we surrender to the dictates of our brains while our minds churn quietly in the background.

In contrast to the bedridden woman cited above, and others I’ve seen, who wished to live, I can cite those who wished to die. At one college where I taught Death & Dying I had a lab course in which I placed students with patients deemed terminal, in what now would be classified as hospice qualified status. Since there were no hospices at the time I placed the students with selected patients in nursing homes. My duties included visiting the nursing homes to negotiate with the staff and consider the patients the staff recommended. More than once I heard patients, confined to their beds, yelling the mantra, “I wanna die! I wanna die!” In one case I heard a burned out staff member yell back, “When it’s your time!”

Your time. Another convenience? How often have we attended a funeral or memorial and heard someone say, “It was their time”? Rather circular argument, but we can go home satisfied. No fault, no foul.

Speaking of time, if you have any lying around unused, your comments will be appreciated. (No, I don’t see the future. I’m just polite.) In any case, I will leave you with (Ooops. I will rephrase that) I will close now with thoughts offered by a recently deceased Zen monk. Be sure to catch the cartoon on the last page.

Teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Awakening of the Heart.

If a doctor tells you, “You have cancer and probably only have six months to live,” you will Teachings Of Thich Nhat Hanhlikely feel completely overwhelmed. The fear, the idea that “I’m going to die in six months”, can take away your peace and joy. Before the doctor told you about the cancer you could sit and enjoy your tea, eat your meal, or watch the moon, while now your fear takes away all your joy and freedom.

But the doctor’s words can be a bell of mindfulness. We all have six months left to live, or seven months, or ten years. If we can know and accept that death is something that comes to everybody, we will not suffer so much. The doctor who tells us we have six months left to live will also die. Maybe the doctor will die before us. We may be lucky to have six months to live. If we look deeply, we see things that we can’t otherwise see. We can get back our freedom from fear and, with that freedom and non-fear, we may live those six months happily.

We are all equal as far as life and death are concerned. Everyone has to die. But before we die, can we live properly? If we live properly, the quality of our last six months can be higher than if we were to live six or sixty more years. If we’re caught in the fetters of suffering, our lives don’t have the same meaning they would if we lived in freedom. Knowing that we have to die, we can become determined to live our lives properly and deeply. If we’re not able to live with peace, joy, and freedom, then we live as if we’re already dead.



by Marco M. Pardi

The weapon of the dictator is not so much propaganda as censorship.” Terence H. Qualter Introduction to Propaganda and Psychological Warfare. 1962

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment. Please forward this site as you wish.

Those of you who have been keeping up with the news have likely seen mention of the spate of book banning and even attempts to defund libraries going on in Republican ruled states. Some people have expressed surprise. I’m surprised, but not by these actions. I’m surprised that some people seem to not know this has been going on for many decades. The Comstock Act of March 3, 1873 banned, among other things, material on sex education, and the knowing mailing or delivering of “any drug, medicine, article, or thing designed, adapted or intended for producing abortion”. Most of the provisions of the act were struck down by 1959 or before, but this one remains. It forms the purported legal basis of the decision made by Federal Judge Kacsmaryk to ban the “abortion pill”. However, it is immediately obvious that this “judge” imposed his religious/non-science views on the women of America.

I first took serious interest in my national/social surroundings in the very early 1950’s. Undoubtedly, this was a response to where I had lived before. But this quickly developing interest provided me with the evidence to support the later statement, “Those who look at the 1950’s as the ‘Good Old Days’ simply weren’t there.”

Of course, I should say here that there were people of that era who truly did enjoy the United States they were ardently fashioning. And again, only decades later did I come to understand the foundation from which these people sprang. Why decades later? Simply because the films, including thousands of newsreels, of their activities in the 1930’s and early 1940’s were securely hidden away. And simply because the textbooks we children were required to read made absolutely no mention of these activities in recent American history. Why no mention? Simply because for decades Texas has been the largest state market for K-12 textbooks. Publishers cannot afford to tailor textbook publication to the values of individual states, so they heed the values of the largest market. Realizing this, the Republican/Evangelical movement in Texas infiltrated its ardent members onto the statewide board which approves textbook selection and the rest of the states had to accept the Texas approved books. Even the political movements and activities of the pre-war era were whited out.

To what am I referring? The very well structured and populated American Nazi Party. Only in recent years (during the Obama administration) have I seen the newsreels (quite sympathetic) of the mass rallies filling Madison Square Garden and other large venues with brown shirt uniformed men and women surrounded by all the accouterments of the Nazi Party in Germany at the time. Only in recent years have I read the hundreds of pages of historical analyses of this large movement, including major newspaper editorials, transcripts of speeches given by leading figures in American industry and “conservative” politics, and sources from which to buy the uniforms, flags, and paraphernalia indistinguishable from that seen on the streets and meeting halls of Nazi Germany. Only in recent years have I seen the documentation of what were then broad efforts to ban certain books, silence particular authors, subvert the democratic foundation of America, and arrest dissenters. Large refugee ships, crowded with European Jews, dissenters, and anyone deemed “subhuman” by the Nazis sailed into New York harbor, passing the Statue of Liberty welcoming them, only to be turned back to return to the fate awaiting them in Europe.

But only a few years into the amazing growth of the malignant tumor called the American Nazi Party the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. War was reluctantly declared on the Axis Powers – Germany, Italy, and Japan. Like roaches and rats caught suddenly in the light the American Nazis scurried into darkness, changed their clothes, and re-emerged into American everyday life, in offices, factories, and the halls of Congress. And who would today assume that along with their clothes they changed their minds? Who would today assume they counseled their children to reject the errors, the hatreds, the violence they had so recently upheld? Or did they bide their time.

After the war in Europe was “officially” over the reprisals began with fury in the formerly occupied countries. The Germans, well deserving the appellation they were given in the previous war – Huns, had murdered, robbed, raped and destroyed everyone and everything in their paths as they tried to retreat. Collaborators, women who sold themselves to Germans, and sympathizers were dragged out and beaten, heads shaved, sometimes killed. And this went on for months. But were there such actions in the United States? Not that I can find.

No, the United States quickly and effectively pivoted away from attention to Fascism, in its Italian origins or its German manifestation, and toward Communism, or what was called Communism. While some may think this was considered a new threat, the “Red Scare” actually arose in the fierce and murderous anti-union movement especially as it arose in the 1920’s. But the new incarnation in the 1940’s and especially 1950’s carried a new and additional raison d’etre: the position that one’s sexual preferences might open one to blackmail, thereby becoming a security risk. The “Lavender Scare” was born; homosexuality in any form was to be stamped out. Authority for this was derived from the 1952 American Psychiatric Association classification of homosexuality as a mental illness, a “sociopathic personality disorder”. J. Edgar Hoover, the blatantly Fascist FBI Director, moved quickly to support the severely alcohol impaired U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (McCarthy died of alcoholism) in conflating Communism and homosexuality into a mortal risk to the American way of life. McCarthy hired the now infamous attorney Roy Cohn, who then added a younger attorney, G. David Schine to the team and the “UnAmerican Activities Committee” was off and running, destroying countless lives. Most Americans are familiar with the activities of Senator McCarthy. Less well known are his actions done through his attorneys, Cohn and Schine. On his orders, in April 1953 they entered the Amerika Haus in Frankfurt, Germany, a very well received meeting place for Germans and Americans to share research, books, and films. In reviewing the titles of the books, magazines, and films Cohn and Schine declared the majority to be propaganda favoring Communism and/or of prurient interest. On their orders over 30,000 books and magazines were pulled from shelves and stored in the basement; what could not be stored was burned. A deja vu image of Nazi Germany.

Some of the media bans during the 1950’s backfired amusingly. I was raised in an extreme Roman Catholic household and so had to attend Sunday Mass. The few portions then in English (I preferred the Latin) included the reading of bans; the priest would open a notebook and read off the titles of books and films we were banned from reading or viewing on pain of mortal sin, which could land you in Hell, never to eat ice cream again. But eventually I was enrolled in a private boarding prep school run by the Brothers of the Holy Cross. Well, not all of the boys were Catholic, at least not extreme Catholic. And so I came into possession of a paperback book entitled Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

The first thing I noticed was the banner across the cover, BANNED IN BOSTON. I wondered how they could do that. Sound trucks driving slowly through neighborhoods? Police raids on bookstores and libraries? I never got that answer, but I did find that such a banner wildly boosted book sales across the nation. Maybe one day I could write something banned in Boston.

But the strangest episode that happened to me involving bans occurred in early 1972. In response to a wave of sexually explicit materials, including films such as Deep Throat, communities across the country were devising “community standards” as a means of defining pornography. I was on the faculty of a small state college, teaching Anthropology and nearing tenure. In fact, I was the only practicing Anthropologist in a very large and very conservative county.

An attorney came to my college office and informed me he had a client, the manager of a large truck stop in the county, who had been arrested for maintaining a selection of sexually explicit magazines in a curtained off room in his truck stop. Undercover Sheriff’s deputies had spent months visiting the book area before selecting a sample magazine and charging him with a felony. As part of his defense, proving the behaviors depicted did not violate or exceed community standards, the attorney was gathering “Expert Witnesses” including the chief of library acquisitions for the largest county library, a Psychologist in private practice in the county, and an Anthropologist – me. Although the college was a state institution the administration was openly fundamentalist, hard-core Christian. I would be risking my chance at tenure. So, of course I agreed to appear.

The trial, attended by a packed courtroom, lasted three full days, much of the first day taken up with jury selection until each side ran out of strikes. Each Expert Witness had been given a copy of the magazine to examine and the jury had also been awarded a copy. I was first up on the stand, facing prosecutors who seemed angrily embarrassed by their paltry credentials. Indeed, throughout the lengthy interrogation I waited for someone to ask the obvious: As a person who had only recently come to the county, how did I know anything about community standards? Shockingly, no one asked. Did they assume I spent my nights peeking in bedroom windows? Badgering people in grocery store waiting lines? Testing my students? (Ya’ll know how them co-eds go fer it)

The rest of the trial followed along the same lines but the prosecution seemed confident about something. The trial ended (I’m not joking) in a hung jury. Yes, a sex trial and a hung jury. Why? We later found that one older male had made it clear his “Christian faith” meant he would not look at the evidence but would convict simply on the charge. The state chose not to retry the time consuming and expensive case. And I got my tenure.

I’m not reflexively against bans. I am active in the efforts to ban assault style weapons. I’ve seen what they do. I’ve also seen the wreckage of humans using certain drugs. And, I am very active in seeking to ban people with a history of abusing non-human animals from ever being near them again. I can list a few other things.

But looking at the current wave of bans spreading across the so-called Red States it is clearly obvious these bans are driven by an ideological agenda I’ve seen before. And the fact that these bans are being successfully implemented speaks to the success of much earlier bans on information as cited above.

Suicidal Moments

Suicidal Moments

by Marco M. Pardi

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment. This particular post is offered in the hope that the many readers who have not previously commented will do so now. Your safety is assured, and you can contact me by email if you wish your comment posted anonymously.

Recently I was in the process of developing a joint post with Br. Mark Dohle, a Cistercian monk and very close friend, when I received one of my daily emails from a critical literary site to which I subscribe. This site reviews literature, past and present, and is a font of information and critical thinking. By the way, Br. Mark may contribute to this post as well.

On seeing a particular entry I forwarded it to several very close acquaintances, some in the field of Mental Health. None of these people have previously contributed to or commented on the site you are now reading, but given the current crisis involving, particularly, youth suicide, a couple of them have agreed that their responses may be posted and one, with permission, has sent a colleague’s cleaned response. For obvious reasons I have removed all identifiers. The citation for the book follows the discussion.

My take:

Personally, I was around nine years old when I first processed the concept of suicide (sui – Latin, self) (cide – killing). I point this out because I gave this new concept considerable thought. Admittedly, I may be over zealous in examining the meaning of words; American-English is my second language. I wondered, for example, about that trite saying, No greater love…..than to lay down one’s life for another. Is that not suicide? Does the Church give this person a pass from eternal Hell? We give medals to soldiers who throw themselves on live grenades, supposedly to save their nearby buddies. Isn’t that suicide? There has never been a day in my daughter’s life when I would not have stepped in front of a bullet meant for her. But then, I’ve been shot before. Maybe I just don’t think it would kill me.

Later in my youth I read about slow motion suicide, a lifestyle certain to bring a premature end. Does that cast doubts on people who are, for whatever reason, in high risk jobs, high risk sports?

But what really set me off was the discovery that, in mental health interviews with patients and even in general health questionnaires we find the question, in various forms, Have you ever thought about suicide? In discovering a new concept who with an I.Q. greater than a doorknob has NOT thought about it, not to do it but to understand it? I concluded people who answer No to the question about suicidal thoughts are either liars or doorknobs.

I am further disdainful of those who carelessly use the term “commit” when referencing suicide. I realize commit signals a final and perhaps irretrievable act, but I feel it is too tainted by its usage in criminal matters. And I do not view suicide as necessarily criminal. So, I prefer to use the term perform, as in He performed suicide. It wasn’t that long ago that suicides were forbidden church funerals or burial in “sanctified ground”. And, suicide is still viewed by many as prima facie evidence of mental illness. Hopefully, we are past that.

And then, there are always those simpletons who say about a suicide, They took the easy way out. I will say firmly, these are people who never seriously came close to examining the possibility for themselves. They never stared down the barrel of a loaded and cocked firearm, never held a full container of pills and thought about it. They are like the matinee soldiers I despised throughout my life.

Another area, which I have discussed in previous posts on this site, is that of medically assisted dying. Where it is legally possible in the United States the lethal dose of medication must be taken by the patient with no assistance from anyone else. Think about that. I was asked to discuss the Brittany Maynard case on nationally broadcast radio. In that situation the patient, Ms. Maynard, had to reach the conclusion that she would soon be disabled by her inoperable brain cancer to the point where she would not be able to take the medication herself. Thus, a seemingly “healthy” young woman took the medication and expired. Yes, she “killed herself”. Does this fit the commonly accepted definition of suicide?

What follows below is a response to the book review I mentioned above. This is a mid-level executive in a highly respected and successful profession living in the Pacific Northwest. (The script may be a bit off since we used different email systems.)

I read this article last night and would like to read the book. I’ve never read anything so detailed and compelling about suicide attempts and ideation. I’ve lived with ideation so long it seems a part of my core. That includes all the ways I might attempt suicide, and have even tried to research those so I won’t botch it. There is actually very little information available online. That’s usually the only thing that prevents carrying out plans – fear of a failed attempt and placing myself in a worse situation. I rarely think about anyone being devastated, because I mostly don’t feel loved by anyone regardless.

Yesterday I spent my day kicking myself over and over for not letting hypothermia kill me. I kept thinking how it would have been the perfect exit. When I was actually experiencing it I did not think that, although I wasn’t thinking clearly at all. I knew on some level I was probably going to die if I didn’t make the emergency call, yet I allowed the condition to go on for four hours. Now I’m reading how much hypothermia clouds the judgment.

One of my coworkers is a brilliant person, and has survived a lot, including parental abandonment, foster care, and cancer. They are basically one of the reasons I stay in a miserable job. Yesterday we discussed the Japanese term “karoshi” (death by overwork). We also discussed how we both virtually never stop moving and rarely take breaks – completely abusing our bodies through hard work. We even joked that sometimes we wish for death so that we would never have to work again. Yet sometimes my own experience seems like another version of slow suicide.

Some of the most brilliant people are stuck in some of the worst situations. I can understand how death seems the only way out sometimes. That’s usually my mentality, along with some pretty severe neurological and social challenges that I now know are permanent. The social ones have improved, and it has helped knowing that I have OCD. I’ve been transparent with my team about my challenges. They are sympathetic, and most constantly tell me to slow down and stop overworking.

Yesterday I found out someone at another company location ended their life. This had me wondering if they were as fed up with the company as I am, along with the corporate greed that goes along with it.

As for the author of this article and book – what a courageous person to write their story. I am always terrified to call suicide hotlines because I know they can send law enforcement. The anxiety of having to disclose my address prevents me from calling. But, I’m never actively forming a plan or about to do anything stupid. I had a botched attempt (fifteen years old), as did my sibling when they were thirteen, and of course our mother’s attempt in my early childhood. So mine are mostly just thoughts.

Thanks for sharing this. I feel on some level you understand ideation, though I’m not pressing you to share.


I found this interesting, as I trust you did as well. I happen to know I am about 30 years older than this person, and that may factor in as I easily recall the many people, including close relatives, I watched enter a long term, miserable decline from which they never emerged in living form. How many of us have similar experiences with loved ones, and come away saying I don’t want to live that way. No, I don’t have any intentions of ending my life. But I have every right to take issue with those who demand that other people “let Nature take its course, in its own time” , or, “Only God can decide when you die”.

I am as much a part of Nature as anything else, so my acts, whatever they may be, are natural. As for God, you know I am not a deist but just for the sake of argument what’s to say I can’t claim God told me to do it. Have you got a back-channel to God to fact check my claims?

Those of us working to make this site valuable to a wide spectrum of readers understand that there are some issues which are less compelling than others simply because they are irrelevant in some readers’ lives. In this case, however, we do suspect that every reader will find some relevance and therefore will render a comment….or many. As always, your comments will be answered and your identity, if you wish it, will be secure. Contact me by email if you wish anonymity, but be sure to put POST in the subject line.



by Marco M. Pardi

Untold Stories of Tonio

Everything was different in this strange place, the buildings, the smells, the people, the language, even the rare trees strangely out of place in this world of concrete. Three and a half year old Tonio looked at New York City, still wondering where Rosa was, still unsure of the two women and an older boy he was with. Unwelcome from birth, he had been largely raised by a live-in governess, Rosa, and felt little connection to these people. To him, Rosa was his mother.

But life went on, including yet another move to the downtown center of a large Mid-Western city on the shores of Lake Erie. Then, at five, he was dropped into a boarding military school 140 miles away by train. Although ensconced in 300 acres of largely forest, the land and everything about it seemed undeniably alien. He was not home. Being “the youngest and the smallest” of the boys brought nothing but trouble. His “foreign” name and manner of speaking enhanced his outsider status, his “otherness”, and encouraged other boys to bully him and call him names. Although he never once questioned the origins of his skills, he soon and frequently demonstrated natural fighting ability, with nearly fatal effect at least once.

Circumstances intervened again and his family connections within the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency, combined with their economic and political clout, hastened his Naturalization as a U.S. Citizen, enabling his family to safely take him back to Italy only a few years later, this time to their property in Firenze.

On arrival Tonio’s soul awakened with the deepest and most silent joy. The past few years had been a bad dream. He was home. Everything was right. The sky, the buildings, the people, the smells, the sounds, all of it, even the language of the birds. He felt he would never leave again.

Rosa was somewhere in Roma, the city of his birth, but Elvira and her husband “Bepino”, cook and handyman respectively, quickly became his family along with a woman who spent every day tutoring him and his older brother in preparation for their entry into school. And, of course, his dearest friend and confidant, Petra, a tortoise who had appeared on the property and came instantly to Tonio.

The days and nights, weeks and months, were pure joy. Every experience was more one of remembering than of learning. But then it happened. Tonio’s maternal grandfather, with whom the family was living, was in Roma on business when, one evening, Tonio suddenly became inexplicably tired and went early to bed. His mother awakened him with the news his grandfather had died. But Tonio knew.

Several weeks later the family moved back to the United States, that alien territory. At a new primary school Tonio followed his mother’s urging and told the other kids he was born in Rome, Italy. Soon, the boys started calling him WOP and Dago, neither of which he understood. And in a short time they added Liar, which Tonio could not figure out. Only much later did he find out that his older brother had been telling the other kids they were born in Cleveland.

But this didn’t matter since, at every recess, Tonio went straight to the farthest edge of the playground and sat alone, often gazing at the Moon in the mornings. He hoped to go there someday. Some foolish boys came by and picked fights with him. For a while it seemed an unusual number of boys were falling on their faces or running into things during recess. Foolish boys. Tonio got a bloody nose just once. When he helped a boy to his feet the boy sucker punched him. Lesson learned. When you knock down an opponent, make sure he stays down. No faculty took notice of him since, in those years, no one thought children could experience severe depression.

At home Tonio read voraciously. One book was about an Indian (Native American) boy who built a canoe and paddled through the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Atlantic. Tonio began collecting pieces of lumber and nailing them together into what he thought of as a raft. A raft which would carry him home to Italy. He had no idea how he would get the raft to Lake Erie, but that didn’t stop him. And no one noticed anyway.

Years later, in the military, Tonio found himself stationed in North Africa. He still dreamed of going to Italy, but he had developed a deep emotional relationship with the attack dog he handled in his combat security job. He would not leave that dog to pine and wonder in his miserable concrete kennel while he enjoyed himself on leave elsewhere.

After 15 months of nightly handling the dog through hellish weather, injuries, and situations he was notified that he was needed for an off-the-books job in West Germany, his dog to accompany him to the German Hundeschule as his “cover story”. A C-130 flight across the Med is faster than a raft but Tonio hadn’t thought about that. When they arrived in Germany and the rear ramp was opened his dog, secured in a large metal kennel, became active. The air, the scents, the sights, everything was a startling change from the Saharan hellscape. But his dog knew. He had been born and weaned here.

Tonio sat with his dog in the back of a large military truck as they drove for hours to the location of the hundeschule. Once there he brought the dog to his kennel, a marvelous wooden structure enclosed against the weather and including a large, raised wooden bench for sleeping, unlike the chain link cage with concrete floor in Africa.

Tonio was struck dumb by his dog’s reaction. In all those months he had never once seen a tail wag or an expression of joy from his dog. Yet, the dog leaped around the kennel, jumping up to lick his face and squealing with happiness. He was home, and he knew it. Six miserable years in the desert were just a bad dream.

A German kennel master standing nearby wrote him up for “failure to have his dog under control.” Tonio didn’t know how to say, “Fuck You” in German, but gave it his best thought. Knowing his dog would be well fed and housed Tonio settled in to get briefed and ready to begin the mission, for which he had been allocated six weeks.

One of a very few military personnel with the required skills and experience, Tonio accomplished the “executive actions” in three weeks, not six. Thus, he had to immediately collect his dog, board a military truck for a suitable air base, and quickly leave the country. Back to Africa.

As the C-130 ramp came open and the furnace like blast of desert air rushed in his dog was quiet in his travel kennel. And he was quiet as they rode in the back of the truck to the K-9 kennels. Tonio walked him into the chain link and concrete kennel and returned to his barracks.

Over the next few nights, out on solitary patrols far from the base, Tonio noticed his dog was subdued. Oh, the dog was purely professional, listening to the sounds only someone who knows the desert would notice, smelling air currents, stopping to look more deeply into the darkness before moving on. But his responsiveness was percetibly slower, as if he had lost interest. Tonio wondered about this, and he tried to get the dog to tell him.

And then, with an impact greater than any of the firearms Tonio carried, it hit him. The dog WAS telling him. Looking into the dog’s eyes Tonio saw in them the young boy who had been taken from his home, from the woman he thought was his mother, and brought to an alien world only to be brought back to his home and have it snatched away from him again. He saw the years of self exile to the only place he could go: deep within himself. And in that moment Tonio doubled over and sobbed. He fell to the sand and rocked, only dimly aware the dog had rushed to him and was whining and licking the flood of tears from his face. The dog to whom he had brought so much pain was helping him to struggle through his own. The dog whose one mission in life was to detect and destroy human life was covering him with unconditional love. A barely new Moon was watching, perhaps waiting a few nights.

From that night on Tonio devoted every possible moment to understanding what his dog needed and wanted, what would make him happy. Risking Article 15, even court-martial, he used his cold weather desert gear to smuggle the best food he could afford for the dog. His squad leader, a hard bitten former paratrooper who was fully aware of the miserable rations for the dogs, turned a blind eye. A dog who could crush Tonio’s hand with a single bite sat patiently as Tonio hand fed him. And they talked. Night after night they talked. And in that time Tonio laid out a sketchy plan for his future. Regardless of career or circumstances, he would devote every spare dollar and every other form of support to every Non-Human Animal cause, be it Shelter, Sanctuary, Rescue Group, or yet unknown that he could find. And he would not stain these gifts by declaring them on taxes.

Finally Tonio received the notice he knew was coming; he was being transferred back to the United States despite his request to go to Viet Nam. Since the Air Force would not assign an airman to two consecutive Conflict Zones, Tonio would have to serve out a stretch before returning to combat.

Although they had “talked” about this eventuality earlier, Tonio and his dog sat in the kennel training yard as he explained that the day had come. An airplane would take him through several stops back to the United States, probably never to return. Tonio knew his dog would never go home again. There would be no C-130, nor even a raft. One way or another he would be killed and placed in a shallow, sandy grave in the K-9 cemetery in front of the K-9 Unit. And Tonio would dream the rest of his life of ways to return, exhume the dog’s remains, and bring them for burial in Germany.

Dreams usually fade. True love never dies.

Stress and Aging


By Br. Mark Dohle

When I was young, even up to my middle sixties, stress seemed to focus me, and allow me to do what I needed to do without fuss, though it did cost me a lot of energy to swim in stressful situations. Many of the situations were interior, but there were also demanding times from the external world as well. We all see this aspect of reality within ourselves I am sure, and many experience this deeper than others.

It probably has to do with my aging body, as well as with my brain/mind connection. I think that is why I am so much more in touch with anxiety. When younger I had no idea that I could even get really anxious, since I always seemed to move towards what was not pleasant, and needed assertiveness. Now stress can scatter me, and bring on a deep disquiet that I can feel in my chest area. It has the feeling of a rolled-up ball of barbwire. It forces me to slow down, and it has helped me in my prayer life. I have learned that much of my inner anger flows from this apprehension. It is a fear that things will fall apart. Rooted in my past experiences when very young. I am thankful for this, for perhaps we all need a goad in our lives to push us forward. Sloth is something that can numb me, but when in the midst of that I feel more dead than alive. 

While anxiety is for me the most unpleasant of inner experiences, I am still thankful that I am more in touch with it. Yet, I know that all that I know about myself is just the tip of a very large iceberg. So as I age I am more at peace with not knowing or understanding, but just try to get through the day without causing damage to others. I do not always succeed, but grace lifts me up and I continue.

I can see grace at work as I age. It leads me deeper into truth, some of these truths are not pleasant at all. Our inner worlds can be beautiful, but also harsh, and even at times have a nightmarish quality to them. There is a reason I believe that people love the horror genre in movies, as well as novels. It gives us a safe place to observe what we have within us. 

When on a path that seeks God, He will bring truth to us. It can be a painful time, but also one that is very fruitful. We seem to grow when we struggle, and yes suffer. I wish it was different, but we have to work within the system given to us.

For me ‘Trust’ is the key. When I feel shaky within, as I get older, I find that it is being in the presence of God that brings peace, and even integration. Again, I do not know how it works, but Trust again is the switch that allows this to happen. Trust in God, can be one of the freest actions we can make. It comes from deep within, far below the agitation, and pain that is often our lot.

Drugs and addictions of all sorts only slow this process down, but eventually, it must all be faced. Prayer and a loving relationship with God can allow us to do that. Psalm 91, as well as Psalms 23, and 139 can be helpful in times of inner turmoil. A slow prayer reading of these prayers can focus us and deepen our rootedness in Christ Jesus. 

Our humanity is not to be feared. Allowing ourselves to sink would be a very serious and at times fatal mistake. Our lives are serious business. Our culture wants us to ignore that, and just have a good time and be entertained. Being jaded can be its own hell. Facing our inner struggles, chaos, and pain, leads to inner joy and peace, though a trek through the desert can be a long one. No matter what we choose, the trek may be very long indeed.-Br.MD

Old Age, Faith, and the Last Things

By Br. Mark Dohle

“Oh, when evening falls may they think of coming to My embrace, their hearts overflowing with gratitude, asking Me to come again with new blessings. And I will come again. And in this way, we shall approach the end of life and the last of My blessings. “For this last blessing, My child, give Me your tender thanks now.”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 4208-4211). Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

I have come to see each day as a metaphor for a full lifetime. In the morning, when the day is fresh, we can begin with hope and joy. Even when that is missing, it is still a beginning that we partake in. As the day progresses things can wear down, we get tired, even cranky, and yes fatigue sets in. Yet we must do what needs to be done. Not keeping going, can only increase our inner weariness. Then evening, and hopefully rest.

Our lives are like that I believe. Old age is not easy, nor always pleasant, but we arrive there in the evening of our lives. Or as a friend told me in a humorous tone, now that I am 73, I am in the midwinter of my life.

Each stage of life has its challenges, as well as gifts that are bestowed on us. In old age, I believe we are called to do one very important thing. To learn to let go of what we took for granted in our younger years. Perhaps what we took for granted even yesterday. Another calling is to be patient with physical pain, understanding that after we do what we can, we will still have some. I know of very few older people who do not have some form of chronic pain, but are manageable. I have known some who have pain that is severe and has to be lived with because nothing can be done for it. That can be tragic. Yet, they do deal with it. With some, you do not even know they are in pain if they do not tell you.

Hopefully, for those who believe that we have an immortal aspect of our existence, that is made in the image and likeness of God, we will spend more time deepening our love and trust in God. Yes, old age is a very important part of our lives, perhaps the most important, though all stages are ‘most important’ when lived through. 

Death can be a gift. It makes us understand that we have little time on this planet. I do believe that the old truly understand this. Once old age is arrived at, it can be experienced with a certain sense of ‘surprise’. What! I am old already, how did that happen! It happens to us all, who are lucky enough to arrive there.

Suffering, struggle, pain, fear, and the many others bumps in life that must be dealt with, can seem overwhelming, and some are of course. However, all we need to do, which is almost never easy, is just to get through the day, do the best we can, and at the end of the day, hopefully, be a little more loving than when we started. If not, well there is always the next moment, minute, day, or week, to begin again. 

Those who do make God, and their inner life with God central to their lives, discover an intimacy that would seem impossible when young. It is something that has to be experienced, not taught, or really preached about. This can give tremendous peace, as well as strengthen one for the journey.

One aspect of aging that can also be healing, is that in prayer we begin to see that my ‘me’, is every ‘me’, and connected intimately with the eternal “Me’

Faith is not always easy, life can get dark, and seem absurd, yet to believe, and trust, is a choice, just as unbelief is. Once we actually understand that, we can proceed. Also, this can make us understand those better who make a choice other than the one we made.-Br.MD

My “me” is God nor do I recognize any other “me” except my God himself.-Catherine of Genoa

Freedom Convoy


We are pleased to introduce a Canadian guest wiriter, Ray Rivers.  Ray has been a journalist for over eight years, writing mostly for the Burlington Gazette in Ontario. He has also written a book, two music CDs and three stage plays.  An economist (MA) by training, his career spanned twenty-six years with the Canadian government in a number of departments, including Environment.  Ray was also a university lecturer in public administration, economics and sustainable development at four universities including one in New Zealand, and has several professional publications.  He worked as a private consultant to both government and industry and CEO for the Ontario chapter of the Organic Crop Improvement Association and Clean Air Canada (emissions trading organization).  Ray is a former candidate for provincial office and was VP of Policy for the Ontario Liberal party for around seven years.


Let Them Truckers Roll – A Postscript

The report of the Commission of Inquiry into last year’s imposition of Canada’s Emergencies Act was tabled this past Thursday.   As most people expected Justin Trudeau was vindicated for invoking the legislation.  His government had met the high bar required to trigger the Act.

Moreover as the Commissioner noted…”I determined that the measures taken by the federal government were, for the most part, appropriate and effective, and contributed to bringing a return to order without loss of life or serious injury to people or property.”  

Most Canadians supported the government action so they will be relieved that this chapter is now all over and relegated to history.  That is except for the 122 people who had a total of 393 charges laid against them for assault and other criminal offences. And then there are those stuck with the clean-up bill. Still, most of the occupiers escaped without so much as a parking ticket.  Most of them who had been blocking traffic and jeopardizing public safety with their illegal gas cans and barbecues, just went home. 

The Conservative ‘PM in-waiting’, Pierre Poilievre blamed the occupation in Ottawa on Justin Trudeau.  He claimed that Trudeau had inflamed the occupiers by referring to them as a ‘fringe’ group.   Trudeau sort of apologized for his undiplomatic use of language, though this was indeed a fringe group.  If anything it was Poilievre himself who kept the flames of occupation burning by encouraging the occupiers, taking selfies and defending the occupation. 

This was never a peaceful protest, unless blocking streets, terrorizing neighbourhoods, polluting the air with diesel exhaust, blaring their horns, and urinating on people’s lawns and war monuments could be considered peaceful.  It was an unruly mob hoping to overthrow a sitting government.  It was an insurrection in the making, which failed from lack of leadership and purpose, despite the assistance of some skilled ex-military and police sympathizers.

This was never about vaccine mandates for truckers at border crossings.  Even if Canada had dropped its mandate the truckers would have faced the same requirement by the Americans.  This was an angry mob taking out their personal frustration with two years of COVID, and for some their unfulfilled dreams of more oil pipelines, on the federal government.  

It was the kind of vendetta one might expect of spoilt children being denied their regular playtime.  Though they lacked a unified leadership, several occupiers presented themselves as spokespeople.  And while the leadership may have included some hard core right-wingers, there were, no doubt, others just along for the ride and the excitement of it all.

It is unlikely that any of these folks supported the Liberals, judging from the number of elegant ‘Fuck Trudeau’ signs stuck on the side of so many trucks.  Clearly these occupiers supported the other team, the other tribe.  And their love was reciprocated when Tory House leader Candice Bergen advocated against asking them to leave.  Make no mistake, this was a partisan mob with a partisan mission.

The Emergencies Act might not have had to be used, the Inquiry concluded, had Ontario’s Premier done his job.   While the truckers were building their barricades opposite the nation’s parliament building, Doug Ford was off snowmobiling somewhere hundreds of kilometres away.  It was as if he was in denial, refusing to attend the meetings in Ottawa and even later refusing to testify at the Inquiry. 

In Ontario, municipalities are children of the province,  Ford had no problem arbitrarily overriding his municipalities whenever he wanted to.  He trashed and slashed the size of Toronto’s elected council only days before an election.  He barred municipalities from using ranked balloting; banned them adding development charges to new development, and so on.  

But when it came to the security of the people of Ottawa, his government hardly raised a finger, leaving the dysfunctional Ottawa police service to fail all on their own, and leaving the job of restoring civil order to the federal government.  The Emergencies Act should never have had to be invoked but for inaction by the province.

Was Ford just being partisan, under pressure from his federal party cousins to let the occupation run its course?  According to interim Tory leader Bergen that would put the issue on the PM’s plate – and possibly embarrass him as an impotent figure head if he did nothing.  Ford did, to his credit, eventually come out to support the federal government and the Emergencies Act.  But the question is why, after he had declared a provincial emergency, he didn’t use his powers to get the OPP tactical squad to end the blockade and occupation?  

This occupation in Ottawa had clearly been inspired by the insurrection in Washington only a few months earlier.  And it had been partially funded by some of the same folks involved in that mischief.  While the Ottawa mob didn’t actually get into the Parliament buildings, they had come with a manifesto to overthrow the government and set up one under their control.  

The parallels to what happened south of the border are too obvious to ignore.  It’s a sad comment on our democracy when groups of people who can’t win at the ballot box choose instead the path of violence and terrorism.  Partisan politics should never get in the way of overriding respect for our democratic values.  

This occupation may have eventually concluded on its own and everyone gone home with just their mess left behind them.  Or it may have ended up much worse with scenes like we saw at the US Capitol.  We should all take a moment to consider how close we really came.

Emergency Act Inquiry –

Gazette Article on Ottawa Occupation –

Candice Bergen Against Asking Occupiers to Leave –



by Marco M. Pardi

and Br. Mark Dohle

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Anon.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

At some point in my life I was exposed to pinball machines, those garish, noisy devices with a spring loaded trigger which send a steel ball caroming around a tilted board with various protruding cogs until it finally drops with a thunk into a hole at the bottom. I noticed that every such game board was almost equally topped with lighted illustrations of buxom beauties in supposedly provocative poses and formed a lasting opinion of who were the intended paying customers. I did not play. But, I did watch others, some quite ardent in their drive for high scores.

But wait! Watching people play, I noticed that what I had thought were obstacles (the protruding cogs) were actually little devices that awarded points when they were touched by the ball. If the ball simply dropped down the canyon of clear board without touching them before dropping into the hole there would be no points awarded. So a simple shift in my perspective put the game in a new light. But some of these encounters were deceptive; they hastened the ball toward the hole at the bottom of the board.

Nevertheless, I always take the opportunity to see things as metaphors for our lives. In this case, a barely disguised Freudian plunger hurls us into a conglomeration we charitably call a society. We are born. We figuratively bang into and bump people heedlessly through the brief spasm we call Life. While keeping score of what we’ve gained, we often ignore the lessons gained by what we perceive as loss.

But what of those whom we encounter, and those whom we miss entirely? Do we give a thought to what they’ve gained, or lost? Do we think of how their lives were made different by the encounter, or would have been different had we not done so? I

do find that giving much thought to these directions makes me uncomfortable in some ways; I feel vain, too self important. When someone refers to my college faculty career and calls me a teacher I inwardly recoil. To me, teacher sounds too elitist; I know something and you don’t so I will teach you. I prefer to feel I have put new information before someone and facilitated the process by which they discover its meaning. For me, the greatest reward in that career was not the money (that’s surprisingly abysmal), it was seeing the excitement of discovery in students’ faces. Whether they reached the same judgment as me was unimportant; they reached a judgment. Especially when assigning written papers I tried to make clear to students that I’m not here to teach you what to think, I’m here to help you develop how to think. What you think is your business; how you think is my business.

Of course, doing that successfully requires talking with people, not talking to people. One person I bumped into over twenty five years ago and have gained many points from through our numerous interactions since is the Cistercian monk Mark Dohle. As must be plain, his foundational premise is different from mine but his developments and applications of thought have values which must surely add to the wealth of our persnal developments, no matter the trajectory of our lives.

Their Roots in Trauma

by Br. Mark Dohle

Our interior lives are deeper than most understand. For there lurk angels, demons,and gods, not to mention passions, deep emotions, and overwhelming feelings of many different sorts. Their roots are in trauma. Perhaps that is why this world can seem more like a mental hospital than an actual world with rational, intelligent beings.

These inner realities can keep us locked away from one another. We use politics and religion more than anything else to do that. I am certainly not immune to the siren songs of ‘personal infallibility’.

Jesus tells us to love one another because in my mind it is the only way to bridge our own inner hell to others, and become free to see, embrace, and understand those around us. For we are truly mysteries to one another, as well as to ourselves. Yes, when we learn to seek others, we understand that they also mirror back to us important insights about ourselves. They do not become our enemies but friends.

Prayer connects us to the “Heart Of God”, and opens us up to feel for others, to have empathy, and to seek the beauty in those around us. As difficult as that can be, in grace healing comes, and prayer opens up our hearts to grace.

The human soul must be fed, and that happens through prayer, the reading of books, and Scriptures that shower light on our need for help from above, in that is our salvation.

To not pray can close us off from others leaving us only with ourselves, and our own ideas often against most others. We align with like-minded people and block out all else. We cannot see our own humanity in those who are ‘other’.

Perhaps that is what causes all of the insanity that fills human history: we do not pray from the heart.-Br.MD

Where Does Faith in God Lead?

By Br. Mark Dohle

Religion is always love, nothing but love.’ Haven’t I explained to you that you will be judged according to the measure of your love—on that alone?

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 4201-4203). Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.


Truth, and Love, can’t be separated. However truth said without love is not about love at all, but more about control, or, the ‘Will to Power’.

Both Truth, and Love have to be embraced, it cannot be forced. The people who have influenced me the most are those who do not seek to manipulate or control me.

To force one’s love on someone, or to try to force another to see things the way I do, is in fact an act of evil. It does not mean that we do not speak the truth, but when we do, to keep the ‘Golden Rule’ in mind. How do I want to be treated? Think about it, pray about it, and then seek to be open to others, about your thoughts and beliefs.

To stereotype another can be another evil since we strip away the humanity of someone and force them into a specific mold, which probably does not exist anyway. In religion/politics, the most decisive and inflammatory subjects, we tend to stereotype more than any other those who disagree with us. We are seeing the

destructive fruit at this point in time in our history more than ever before. This is because of the many forms of communication, several offering anonymity, that are now easily available.

On line there are more communities that exist that only allow information that they already agree with. Yet, the more we talk at each other, the less that is said or listened to.

Is it any wonder that so many are lonely, and isolated in a world filled with instant access to news, and discussion? The grace of love allows us to build bridges so that we can speak to others of a different mindset without being offensive to each other.

Christian friend, and all friends, let us pray for all, and seek to see all that we come in contact with as a beloved child of God. We are not called to judge, but to speak truth, and to listen to others as we would like to be listened to. So many feel discounted, this leads to rage.-Br.MD

As Mark and I have made clear in our frank discussions, we do not share the same foundation. But we do share our value of how we communicate with others.

And speaking of that, I will take this opportunity to inform you of a stunning encounter I had recently. I walk my dog, or more likely get dragged, about the neighborhood early every morning. Often we encounter and exchange greetings with an elderly African-American man wearing a ball cap with various writing and military insignia on it. And this time I was close enough to ask him what was on his cap. He came closer and showed me. To say I was stunned almost silent would likely be the

understatement of 2023. He seemed pleased at my reaction, and I sincerely hope to sit down with him soon and interview him for a post I will provide for you.

As always, I am deeply honored by and grateful for the comments people are kind in offering on this site. Since this site is read in many countries around the world I will say I have no doubts that the world, as we know the better parts of it today, is what it is due to the bravery and fortitude of the man I had often passed but only recently met on my neighborhood street in the past few days. In that light I would hope people respond.

An ancient Indian proverb advises us: Life is a bridge. Cross over it but build no house upon it.

Dealing With “Situations”

Dealing With “Situations”

by Br. Mark Dohle

Br. Mark is a lifelong Cistercian (Trappist) monk at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. He has recently been diagnosed with Covid 19. Although in isolation, he is greatly concerned about his fellow monks, many of whom are elderly. I heard from him as recently as this morning and he is having a tough time with Covid. MMP

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

Dealing with ‘situations’

I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

Pope John Paul II

I guess you can say, that we all have times in our lives when the above quote may not seem helpful. Sickness, loss of a loved one, or a job, health issues, and of course, becoming old, bring with it its own list of problems, issues, and situations that have to be faced.

Bromides, and just about any saying no matter how wise, can actually cause some harm to people. However, the content can be true, and even helpful. The gist of the matter is that each of us has to decide, choose, listen, and, then put into practice what is said. Not always an easy thing to work through.

In my own life, there are times when I have chosen to ‘sink’ so to speak. To make matters worse by entering into a state of ennui, or into a desperate desire to escape an unescapable situation. Unless someone dies young and quickly, there will be more than one situation in our lives when we will be brought to a place of choice, but may not choose at all. Chaos can be given into. In some ways, it is easier than choosing ‘life’ over the netherworld.

Suffering of all kinds can throw us back upon ourselves, blocking everything else out. When in deep suffering we often can’t center ourselves. The tendency is to make the world responsible, causing rage, or blame God, making the situation worse. It is an outward movement away from prayer, there is nothing to stand upon that is lasting. It can cause deep restlessness even when fatigue is present. We want to be anywhere but here at this time.

For most of us, if the situation is not terminal, we do get through it, adapt, and life goes on. If during such situations we become more pointed in what we want to do, something else can happen.

 Many find God when in the depth of suffering. It is then that prayer and the relationship with God become real and not just something we may do from time to time. The term “Christ with Us” for Christians, becomes something real and we learn to unite our sufferings with His for the salvation of others. For in prayer, there is a deep connection with our fellow man.

Sickness of all kinds is common. Today Covid seems to be everywhere, so it is not hard to meet people who have gone through it more than once. For the most part, the majority seem to get through it without much fuss. For others, it can be very painful, and then there are those who die. No one knows why some get ill, and die, and others, even with Covid, prosper. There always seem to be more questions than actual answers to our important concerns.

By the grace of God, I was able to more or less stay focused so as not to get dragged down. I have come to understand my age, my fragility, on a new level, and it makes me more aware of how important life is, and how each moment is a time of loving choice, to choose to say yes even in the midst of feeling alone, and isolated from God. I do not believe such feelings, or emotions, they pass, as do all things. God’s love never passes, for God is with us.-Br.MD



by Marco M. Pardi

“We have art in order not to die of reality.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” Ernest Hemingway

Religion is believing in other people’s experience… Spirituality is experiencing your own.” Anon.

All comments are welcome and will receive the fish eye, I mean, a reply. All previous posts are open for comment; no one will track you, hunt you down, fiddle with your meds, or otherwise bother you. And, you are welcome to forward disagreeable materials you find to anyone you choose.

No, this is not a narrative of a daring-do escape; it is an exploration of how we – and that includes you – cope. This is particularly relevant for residents of the Untied States, but it can reasonably be argued that when the Untied States catches a cold the rest of the world catches………something. But, hey, I said reasonably argued. When’s the last time you heard that phrase?

As a young boy I looked at quiet people and wondered what was going on in their minds. I didn’t want to “read” their minds, that was too factual. And probably not interesting. No, I wondered if they were in the moment, or somewhere else. Were they hearing music, replaying old arguments, regretting something past, wishing they were somewhere else or in some other time? I had no understanding of psychology, rather I was developing a sense of philosophy, particularly of mysticism. How people answer the question, WTF am I doing here, and if they ask it at all.

In primary school the nuns, especially Nun the Wiser, chastised us for “daydreaming” in class. I found this troubling inasmuch as these women had dedicated their lives to someone they had never met, or had even seen in a photograph. And, they spoke constantly of mortal life as short, Earth as only a place of hard learning and trial, and a non-corporeal life to come in a “far better place.” That better place stuff must have taken hold as so many people carelessly say that to surviving families at funerals; “He’s in a far better place now.” A few years ago I knew a suddenly widowed woman who required in-patient care after someone said that to her at her husband’s funeral; as if being away from his wife and his wonderful, loving, young daughters put him in a “better place”. That has got to be one of the most horrible things one can say at a funeral.

Still, many of us – probably most – have our Anywhere but here moments. And that poses the question: Where do people go when they are mentally not here? And, when they go, do they not take themselves with them? Through years of knowing people with various problems, including substance abuse, I learned that many of these people thought moving somewhere else would solve the problem. But then someone spoke up and asserted that you take yourself with you, and until you deal with yourself you will not escape the problem. Seems obvious.

It also seems we are surrounded by innumerable suggestions, advertisements, and, frankly, come-ons for us to “pay your money and take your choice”. Sometimes when I think of the myriad escapes on offer day and night I think back to the graduate course in Criminology I took. During the course I took the opportunity to interview a variety of prisoners, from those sentenced to a few days in jail to those who spent their lives in prison. The “lifers” told me the most dreaded punishment was solitary confinement. No input of any kind, not even sounds from the rest of the prison. Cold sandwiches pushed through a slot in the solid door without so much as a glimpse of a hand. All alone. Or were they. No, in fact they were locked in with themselves.

The lifers laughed as they told me of the young punks who wanted to experience solitary, see how it was, and maybe set some new record for endurance. Invariably they broke down crying and screaming to be let back into the general population, all much sooner than they thought. I guess being with yourself is, for some people, much scarier than I thought. At least for some people.

Writing this reminded me of a funny occurrence at Harvard. The main library had an air circulation system which randomly clattered and clunked, not loudly, just enough to be heard. When the new central air system came on line it was totally silent. Not a sound. Ever. Within days students complained that they could not concentrate on their studies. It seemed their minds were listening and waiting for those familiar sounds.

It was the realization of the terror of being with one’s self which turned me against capital punishment – in most cases. I say most cases because I want to reserve the right – within the law – to personally mete out such punishment where and how I see fit. But I learned many decades ago that when you kill someone you can’t hurt them anymore. As Socrates said in answer to why he chose suicide over exile, (I paraphrase) If there is nothing after death then there won’t be a me to experience it. But if there is a life after death I will go on living as before. So, under option One you can empty your magazine in someone’s face and it makes no difference, except to how they look. Under option Two, maybe they went to a “better place”. Solitary confinement seems much more promising if your intent is to punish.

Some years ago I wrote a piece on Korsakov’s Psychosis, commonly known as Korsakov’s Syndrome or “wet brain”. You can find it in the archives if interested. When I hear apprentice intellectuals intone that we should “live in the now” I think back to those in-patients I had seen with Korsakov’s and how they lived in the now. The eternal now. Through alcoholism or TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury they were completely unable to form and experience memories, short or long term. Each moment was a moment of awakening from a dreamless sleep. Oh, they were not plagued by troublesome memories, but nor did they have any idea of who they were. Information given to them now was gone a moment later. Unlike prisoners in sound proofed solitary, they could not guess the passage of time by the appearance of food trays in their door slots. Thinking of this made me wary of the joyous pronouncements of “eternity”. Since by definition eternity is timeless – in every dimension and direction – is this “better place” a state of Korsakov’s Psychosis? How could someone have a sense of eternity if there is no way to measure time? No way to say, Geez, this forever thing is great! And, come on, affective states become normal. Therefore “great” loses it potency. It’s SSDD, same shit different day, without the ability to measure day.

Many traditions around the world, including early Christianity, believe in reincarnation. I’m okay with it for other people, but not for me. No way I’m ever doing this gig again. But wait, might this be an escape from the mindless tedium of eternity?

Okay, if you have read this far I’m guessing you have some sense of time having passed. Speaking of which, how did we come up with this concept of time wasted? Are we on the clock? Big Ben in the Sky? Thanks for spending part of your life with me. I’ll be going now.

Conversation with a Retreatant

by Br. Mark Dohle

Conversation with a Retreatant

by Br. Mark Dohle

God doesn’t always bring you the entire truth.

He sometimes gives it to you in pieces, in order to learn.

Regardless, it is the piece that you got today

that will renew your faith for tomorrow.” ― Shannon L. Alde

Being a Retreat-Master (or Guest-Master) affords me the opportunity to meet many interesting people. We do get a wide variety of individuals who come here for retreats. Many (the majority) are Christians from many different communities. We also get those who follow other paths. Some are structured, others more free-flowing. All are welcome.

There was a man here this weekend, with whom I have spoken before in the past. We had the opportunity to talk about how his life was going. When he came here I think about four years ago, we discussed the crossroad that he was at. He was having what I would call a crisis of faith. Well after much thought he let go of his religion, and now calls himself an atheist. He joined a Unitarian-Universalists congregation. In this church, there are all kinds of people gathered under one roof. There are Christians, deists, atheists, Wiccans, and others who can’t find a church that will accept them. I do not know much about this group, but I did learn from listening to him that it can be a place of healing for many.

I do believe that when I think of other ‘groupings’ I can be very guilty of stereotyping, and in ways that are very unfair. As I listen to my newfound friend sharing about his community I found myself intrigued.

I can’t say that I am a fan of the Woke movement. From those who speak in public about Woke philosophy, it can come across as being angry, without mercy, or a sense of justice. It is about revenge. However, I knew on some level that those who speak out in public, more often than not, are extremists. So I believe that there was a level of not trusting those who speak for the movement. Most people belong to the silent majority who like me are getting more and more fed-up with the vitriol coming from both sides.

Let’s call the retreatant ‘Frank’. Frank talked about seeking to make those on the fringe of society welcome, to give them a place where they do not have to defend themselves because they are different from the average citizen. As he spoke I begin to understand that this man was not into making a political statement, or yelling at others, but simply treat others as they would like to be treated. He had a deep desire to help others and wanted them to find a loving community to interact with.

His past served him a very toxic understanding of God. So when he told me that he simply dumped that image, and became an atheist, I could understand why he had to do that. Yet I could see God at work in his life, and by the fact that he was not consumed with anger, but only wanted to help others, I could sense grace at work.

God is free to do whatever he wants when he seeks to bring healing and peace to others. Some may need to wander far afield, yet do they? Christians, well many of them, feel the need, or compulsion, to draw all kinds of lines with others, and to pronounce judgments. I find this interesting when Jesus told us not to. It is not from the Spirit of God but from our fallen nature. The desire to dominate and control, I believe is one aspect of this.

I find it interesting that Christians will seldom quote this verse:

Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

Jesus said: Love your neighbor as yourself. Well who is your neighbor? In the parable of the Good Samaritan, your neighbor is your enemy.

To love and respect others is not the same as always agreeing with them. It does mean having enough self-awareness to ‘treat others as you would want to be treated”.

I was thankful for our conversation, and hope to see him again. He seeks as we all do and sometimes along diverse paths, but the grace of God knows the heart and is leading those who truly seek to that path that in the end leads to our true home. For Jesus said: “Those who seek will find”.-BrMD

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